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5.4 Southeastern Tribes

The Calusas of Florida drove Ponce de Leon away in 1513. Ponce de Leon had accompanied Colombus in 1493 on his second journey to America and was responsible for the suppression of the Arawaks on Hispanola. The Calusas were the dominant tribe of southwestern Florida at that time and they were the heirs of the Mississippian civilisation. They were known to travel long distance at sea and as traders not only with other Florida tribes but also with Bahamas and Cuba. Their capital, Calos, was designed like the temple mound cities.

In 1521 the Calusas defeated Ponce de Leon’s second invasion. He had landed in Carlos Bay with 200 soldiers and settlers to establish a colony. After the Spanish had established their settlement the Calusas under Carlos I attacked them with poisoned darts and arrows. The Spanish had to retreat to Havana where Ponce de Leon died from an infected poisoned arrow wound. The Calusas escaped into the Everglades in late 1,500s after repeated Spanish invasions.

In 1528 the Timcua Indians of Florida successfully resisted 400 Spanish settlers who wanted to start a new colony in Tampa Bay. They already had previous bad experience with the Europeans and succeeded to send about 100 of them back to their ship but the remaining escaped and moved north where they were attacked by other Indians. At Apalachee bay they gave up. They killed their horses and build small boats with they hides and trees branches. They hoped to reach Mexico but were shipwrecked near Galveston, Texas.

In 1539 Hernando De Soto, a former member of the Pizarro’s army that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru, was ordered by the King of Spain to “conquer, pacify and people” what is now Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The Timcua, Appalachia, Coosa, Mobile, Natchez and Tonkawa fought back. This was the only expedition that chronicled the Mississippian civilization that was to disappear 3 decades later mainly through disease. De Soto’s army destroyed as much as they could on their way from Florida to Texas. The Timcua attacked them but they were defeated by De Soto superior forces. Timcua men and women were taken into slavery, plundered their food supplies and looted burial sites. De Soto then moved against the Apalachees, the Creek, the Coosas, the Mobiles, the Chickasaw. De Soto was generally victorious but sometimes at a price. The Spanish were amazed by the rich agricultural fields and the architectural designs of the Coosas, by their great temple mounds and geometrically arranged houses.

The Timcua of Northern Florida suffered under the Spanish for over a hundred years. The first mission was installed in 1609. An epidemic reduced the Timcua population by half between 1613 and 1617 and this happened again in 1655. Lucas Menensez, a Timcua chief, convinced the Spanish trained Timcua militia to follow him and rebel against the Spanish. All the soldiers and Spanish civilians of the San Pedro mission were killed. The Spanish retaliated and Menendez and eleven of his soldiers were hanged. Other leaders were condemned to forced labour while many of the remaining Timcua were sold as slaves. The Timcuan Nation ceased to exist and the remaining people joined the Seminoles. In 1659 10,000 Florida Indians died of measles.

In 1661 the Indians in Georgia attacked the Spanish missions and those north of the Savannah River were soon abandoned.

In 1724-1729 the Natchez nation resisted the French authorities attempts to impose new taxes and to confiscate some of their lands. This led to some battles culminating in 1729 to the killing of about 200 French on a Natchez plantation. With the help of their Choctaw allies, the French captured the great sun, the Natchez central sacred chieftain, and 480 Natchez prisoners. They were all sold into slavery in the Caribbean. Some Natchez survivors were offered refuge and protection by the Chickasaws. This led to a war between the Chickasaws on one side and the French and the Choctaws on the other. The final result was that the Natchez nation ceased to exist.

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